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AT&T net flat due to iPhone supply

AT&T said Wednesday that subscriber growth in the latest quarter was stifled by a limited supply of the iPhone 5, but that sales of smartphones and mobile data plans remained strong.

The company reported that third-quarter earnings were essentially flat at $3.64 billion, or 63 cents a share, compared with earnings of $3.62 billion in the period a year earlier. Revenue was also flat at $31.46 billion.

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The company’s shares closed down nearly 1 percent at $34.71, down 29 cents.

“We had another impressive quarter with strong earnings growth, record cash flows and solid returns to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks,’’ said Randall L. Stephenson, AT&T’s chief executive.

AT&T, based in Dallas, said it sold 6.1 million smartphones in the quarter and activated 4.7 million iPhones. The company said it added 151,000 contract subscribers, the most valuable type of customer, compared with 319,000 in the period a year earlier.

AT&T said contract subscriptions were held back partly because of the limited supply for Apple’s iPhone 5.

Revenue from mobile data services grew 18.3 percent, to $6.6 billion, compared with the third quarter of 2011.

Responding to a move by its rival Verizon Wireless, AT&T started offering shared data plans this year that allows a customer to share a single pool of data on multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

Analysts say these types of plans can save money for families that own multiple wireless devices, but can cost more for individuals.

AT&T said sales of its shared data plans were off to a good start, and that most customers were choosing the larger, more expensive data packages.

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